Saturday, April 12, 2014

Battle of the Books, Bracket Seven, Second Round :: The Demoness of Waking Dreams by Stephanie Chong vs. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman

We begin the second round of Bracket Seven of the Battle of the Books, after a short delay due to the Windows XP apocalypse. Our first match in the second round features The Demoness of Waking Dreams by Stephanie Chong vs. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman. The winner will be the book I (Amy) most want to continue reading after 50 pages.

The Demoness of Waking Dreams: Harlequin MIRA paperback, August 2012, 259 pages. The Demoness of Waking Dreams is book two in the paranormal romance series The Company of Angels.

In the first 25 pages of The Demoness of Waking Dreams we were introduced to the beautiful demoness Luciana Rossetti, who escaped home to Venice, Italy after her plans were foiled by the Company of Angels. Luciana hunts during the Festival of the Redeemer each year for a single victim to offer to the Prince of Darkness.

We were also introduced to ruggedly handsome, Brandon Clarkson of the Company of Angels in Chicago. Before his death, Brandon was a police officer. Brandon is assigned to capture the dangerous Luciana, who has concocted a poison that can kill even demons and angels. Brandon works alone.

Brandon peruses Luciana's file on his plane flight to Italy. When Brandon falls asleep, his recurring nightmare is invaded by Luciana and she tells him to turn back. Meanwhile, Luciana wakes from a brief reverie with a mysterious feather, after envisioning a man, undoubtedly Brandon.

Later, Brandon finds Luciana easily, she's at the Redentore Church, as every year. Brandon thinks Luciana is stunningly beautiful. Luciana recognizes Brandon as an angel and she talks to him defiantly. He tries to handcuff her. Luciana runs. Brandon chases her through the streets of Venice. Luciana leads him to a narrow street called Rio Tera dei Assassini, a place that feels to Brandon of death.

The Rise of Ransom City: Tor Books, November 2012, 366 pages. The Rise of Ransom City is Felix Gilman's fourth novel, and is a loose sequel to The Half-Made World.

The Rise of Ransom City is the fictional autobiography of self-educated inventor and businessman, Professor Harry Ransom. It's set during the Great War between Gun and Line. The first 25 pages told of Harry's childhood in a coal mining town, and how Harry was cured of a mysterious illness by an electrical apparatus made by the Line. That apparatus inspired the prototype for Ransom's Light-Bringing Process. Professor Ransom and his assistant are traveling through towns on the Western Rim in a wagon with their apparatus seeking investors.

After one of his demonstrations, Professor Ransom takes a late night stroll. He catches sight of two weary people walking along the road in the darkness, a younger woman and an older man. Professor Ransom introduces himself. The woman says that she's Miss Harper. Ransom asks the man if he's her father, and he nods. Ransom assumes they are avoiding the patrols of the Line for some secret reason, which he is curious to learn. Ransom offers to let them travel with him and his assistant.

Readers of the previous book, The Half-Made World, will know who these characters actually are.

Professor Ransom shows his Light-Bringing Process in another town, at a Smiler (a type of Church) meeting hall. His assistant initially works the pedals of the apparatus. There are magnetic cylinders and coils. Ransom's lamps start glowing. There are no connecting wires. This is not electricity. Ransom unwisely delivers, instead of his usual pitch of how the Process could make money for a canny investor, his opinions about the War. Then the Process becomes unbalanced, power surges into the Ether, and all the lamps burst. Ransom and his assistant barely manage to pull the emergency lever on the apparatus. Ransom says that he didn't know then how dangerous the Process could be.

The Battle: This matchup is a battle between a paranormal romance featuring a demoness and an angel, and a steampunk fantasy set in an alternate world inspired by the Old West.

The Demoness of Waking Dreams is, so far, entertaining. The setting in Venice is interesting. I liked that one of Brandon's first lessons as an angel was that beauty can be deceptive, and to not equate beauty with goodness.

I found it difficult to believe that Luciana could find her way into Brandon's dream before they even met in person. How would she even know that he was coming after her?

This is undoubtedly a paranormal romance. Brandon "falls" into Luciana's green eyes. The energy of their bodies is like a magnetic force. Pheromones are making a presence. I think I can guess where The Demoness of Waking Dreams is leading, but I'm not sure that I want to go there. To be honest, I don't usually read romance.

The Rise of Ransom City is an old-fashioned tale told in first-person in rambling style which I happen to like, but some people might find somewhat long-winded. The writing contains quirky humor that seems patterned on that from over a century ago.

Not all that much has happened yet, plot wise, and I'm unsure where the story is going, but I'd like to follow this adventure and learn more. I enjoy the world building, and the unreal, not fully explained, weird aspects. Professor Ransom comes off as eccentric, but likable.

If you enjoy reading romance, maybe give The Demoness of Waking Dreams a try. But for me, after 50 pages, I'd prefer to continue reading the steampunk western.

THE WINNER: The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman

The Rise of Ransom City advances to the semifinals, where it will take on either The Doctor and the Rough Rider by Mike Resnick or River Road by Suzanne Johnson.

To see the whole bracket, click here.

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